Eritrea is located in a region fraught with conflict and crises. Many face extreme poverty with no relief ahead as drought and food shortages are serious challenges in this one-party state. Mandatory military service limits the size of the workforce. Many people flee the country to escape the military, and the money sent home by those who live abroad now provides a vital source of income for the country. Eritrea's relations with its neighbour and former enemy, Ethiopia, have significantly improved of late. However, one of the results of this is that the two governments are colluding to wreak destruction on Ethiopia's restive Tigray region. Pray for the government to focus on caring and providing for its own people - it has a terrible record on human rights and press freedoms, accompanied by an obsession with military power and control.
The Christian Church faces terrible ongoing persecution, both outside the recognized churches and, to some degree, within. Many leaders and lay members are in prison, and more are under house arrest; the government has seized many church assets. Christians are largely Orthodox, mostly from among the Tigrinya, with some from among the Kunama, Bilen or other peoples. Evangelicals are fewer, but are present to varying degrees within most denominations. Christians of all denominations have been refined and drawn together in fellowship through recent decades due to war, drought and government oppression. But the intense suffering of the Church in Eritrea is one of the untold stories of the past decade - a story of tragedy and ultimately, we pray, great spiritual harvest. Pray that Christians may remain fervent for Jesus amid hardship and make a significant impact on their nation and beyond.
Evangelicals are growing despite severe persecution. Being officially banned, these groups now operate in underground networks based in homes. Around 20 or more networks are known, but numbers are impossible to ascertain. Pray for these issues:
- Imprisonment and torture are reality. Key evangelical leaders were imprisoned following the ban on their churches. Since then, arrests have included pastors, prominent evangelicals in society and, more recently, those known to practice their faith. Prison conditions are harsh - beatings and agonizing torture techniques cripple many and even lead to death in some cases. Some estimate that over 3,000 Christians are currently in prison. Pray for those in prison, that they may be strengthened and enabled to endure suffering while radiating grace. Pray also for their families, who often find themselves bereft of not only loved ones but usually of the income earner as well.
- Ongoing evangelistic outreach. Amid such hardship, the Church has grown rapidly, often most among those fleeing the country, those living in camps in Ethiopia and elsewhere, those in prison and those living abroad. Witnessing Christians, though violently opposed by the authorities, have spread far and wide. Still, many villages and towns remain unimpacted by the gospel. Pray for continued commitment of believers to preach Christ whatever the cost and without compromise.
- Harvest among the Eritrean diaspora, both in the wider region in Africa and globally. Many suffer by proxy with their brethren back in Eritrea, but significant numbers of Eritreans outside the country are encountering the Lord Jesus in profound ways. Pray for this to continue and to multiply.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.